There are many terrible things about Republicans’ plan to throw tens of millions of people off their health insurance and send them to their deaths, but one of the worst has been the fantasy that, somewhere out there, some brave Republican rebels are waiting in the wings to spare us from the evil their colleagues are enacting.
It’s a truly bizarre theory, given that these supposedly true and decent patriots have done exactly nothing to stop the GOP from its whole-hearted embrace of far-right insanity, but nevertheless, it persists. Time and again, the cry goes up. The moderates and the rebels will save us!
Well, look at what just happened today. In the run-up to the vote to proceed with debate on a GOP health bill, many of these so-called moderates and rebels—like Dean Heller, Shelly Moore Capito, Rob Portman, Jerry Moran, and Ron Johnson—made big noises about how much they hated what their leader, Mitch McConnell, was doing. They hated the cruel nature of the bills on offer. They hated the secrecy with which the bills were being rammed through Congress. They hated everything.
Lo and behold, however, their objections suddenly melted away when the time came to actually send a Republican health bill up the ladder to passage. McConnell let a couple of senators—Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski—vote against the bill, while everyone else fell into line. McConnell got just the right number of votes that he needed. Funny how that happens, right? The rebels were just as rebellious as their leader would allow, and not an inch more.
You can never go wrong assuming that these people will sell you out. The weird thing is why anyone ever thinks they wouldn’t.
If there’s anyone who personifies this devotion to the rebel fantasy, it is, of course, John McCain, a man whose “maverick” label will never be removed even though there is virtually nothing to support it. McCain has been away from Washington, coping with brain cancer, but was called back into service so he could help push a health bill through. On Monday night, a former speechwriter for Barack Obama floated this idea on Twitter:
Yes, that would have been a remarkable moment, on the alternate planet where the Senate was full of people with identifiable political principles that they stuck to rather than a blood-soaked grouping of bigots, grifters, and scoundrels who are more devoted to their own power than anything else. But we live in America, where, instead of having the universal healthcare every other country like ours gets, our legislators tinker with the machinery of medical death and prove that people like Keenan are living in a dream.
The sight of McCain being given a hero’s welcome—by Democrats, whose applause for him was both pathetic and damning, as well as Republicans—just as he enthusiastically voted with Mitch McConnell should have been the final dismantling of the myth of the rebel Republican if there was any justice in the world. The sight of him immediately following this vote with a ludicrously hypocritical speech in which he lamented the degrading of Senate norms, and said he wouldn’t vote for a bill he’d just voted to move ahead, should have sent that myth hurtling into the stratosphere, never to be seen again.
But, of course, you can always find a group of suckers, willing to swallow the next batch of bullshit.